(Photo by ANDREW RIZZO)
DePauw University Professor of Interpersonal Communication and DePauw Cycling Team coach Kent Menzel trained Thomas and Klofta and was impressed with how the two riders attack a course in not the most ideal conditions.
"They were really very strong this year on one of the hardest courses, actually the hardest course, I've ever seen for the Collegiate National Road Race," Menzel said. "The conditions were just terrible. It was about 45 degrees and pouring rain for the entire race and they just were very strong from start to finish. So those were actually very good finishes for them. So I was very, very happy with their performance there.
Menzel went on to speak about how the duo might not have come away with the top spot, but as the race progressed, all eyes were on them.
They proved they are definitely two of the top young women in the United States, clearly," Menzel stated. "They were able to demonstrate that in that race. Then in the criterion race the next day, they proved in their racing format, criterion racing is really what they do best. They actually broke away and lapped the field in the National Championship and sometimes the actual finish of the race is about 75 percent luck, so it didn't work out that one of them could win the race, but they definitely made the race.
"They might have actually put in a little bit too much effort to get away and lap the field and so the Dartmouth girl was able to sit in and got lucky at the end. But, they raced phenomenal, there were absolutely the stars of the race those two were," he added.
Thomas began her quest at the U.S. Cycling Collegiate Road National Championships with a third place finish in Friday's road race with a time of 3:29.23 and a second place finish in Saturday's Criterium with a time of 43:47.8.
Klofta began her cycling career late in life, getting her first bike her junior year of high school, but since then, she's making up for lost time.
Klofta posted a sixth-place finish in the road race Friday after posting a time of 3:30.02 and a time of 43:48.3 to finish third overall in Saturday's Criterium.
Not only did Thomas have an impressive showing as an individual, she was also a member of the first place team trial winning team from Whitman College. The team of Thomas, Mia Huth, Roxanne Pierson and Emily Rodriguez won with an impressive time of 45:26.73.
The Whitman woman's cycling team has won six of the last seven Team Time Trial Championships. Speaking of championships, in her four-year career at Whitman, Thomas has eight National Championships to her name.
True to form, when Menzel spoke of their training regimen, it's all about practice -- and not just a little. He noted the riders ride two to three hundred miles per week, train one to four hours a day almost every day of the week. Plus, they do a whopping 50 to 60 races per year.
It's said that some athletes are just born with it and that might in fact be the case with Klofta.
"She became a bicycle racer two weeks before she participated in the Collegiate National Championships in San Diego and she place fifth in the individual pursuit. So, she won a medal in a national championship basically, let's say, three weeks into career as a bicycle racer and hasn't stopped since," Menzel commented.
The two won't be idle coming off their successful showing in Wisconsin. For cycling, it's all about the hours put in on the bike, and from the sound of it, the duo have no ideas of slowing down.
"Kendi is now beginning her career as a professional racer with Team Kenda out of Chicago," Menzel said. "So she's going to keep training and racing and improving. They both have a couple of major races coming up, particularly the, it's called the Nature Valley Grand Prix in Minnesota in mid-June, which is the next big stop for them and that's the top professional race in North America every year for women. Rita will be doing it for her second year and Kendi will be doing it for her third year.
"Then for Kendi, the next big target, are the professional stage races through the summer, the Elite Critirium Championship and then in the fall the Elite Track Cycling Championships. For Rita, (it will be) the same races. She's going to a race series in Wisconsin called Super Week in July. She's going to -- actually, both of them are going to -- major track," he said.
In addition to these events, they will also participate in the Alpenrose Velodrome in Portland, plus four regional races in Chicago, Michigan, St. Louis and Marion, Ind.